Watching Frey and GP wrestle on Rough and Ready 39, I get the biggest boner when the action is least tense and most lightheartedly silly. This surprises me because in the past one of my minor complaints about Thunders Arena has been that often the wrestlers don't take their matches seriously*. I used to insist that it was the wrestlers' conviction, fighting heart, macho attitude, and competitive spirit (if not outright sadomasochism) that pack the most punch in underground wrestling, while always conceding that, based on personal experience anyway, a sense of "light fun" is what saves bedroom and motel-room wrestling from being creepy or, almost as bad, ludicrous. But Arena boss Mr Mike's constant claim has been that he's shooting for the sort of tongue-in-cheek horseplay common in frat houses. And I have to say it's that light touch that gives R&R39 its edgy energy and erotic heat.
Not that the guys don't try to give fans like me what we say we want. We get some shit talk and glowering now and then, even two or three holds that look genuinely agonizing, but Frey and GP seem to be having too much fun to keep up the illusion of tough dramatic conflict. I'm not insider enough to know the true behind-the-scenes details (I usually leave that stuff to Bard to ferret out), but these two seem genuinely to enjoy each other. The more relaxed and unselfconscious they become and the more they set aside the macho posturing, the more they're like a couple of regular guys alone, having fun tussling with each other. And I can't say that this always happens when I watch wrestling, even my favorite matches, but watching GP and Frey enjoy themselves, I want to hang out with them, too. One of the most charming moments is in the midst of a grueling camel clutch (see the third photo above). GP grimaces and Frey growls, "Still wanna wrestle me?!?" GP takes a beat and goes "Mm hm," with a flip, teasing, almost flirty look on his face (look at the fourth photo). (This moment of coquettishness is all the more surprising coming from a guy who says his initials stand for "Gets Pussy.") With mock contempt Frey complains that wrestling's "all a game" for the newcomer, but, damn, it looks like such a really hot game.
If you ask me, the only weak point in R&R39 is the length of the introduction (over a quarter of the video). I'm not a fan of long intros anyway--they're like a nineteenth-century English novel with fourteen expository chapters tracing the quaint genealogy of the main character. I'm a lover of classic literature (PhD, 17th-century British lit), but still I want the shark to attack in Chapter One (even Homer started in the middle of things). In wrestling, all I need to know up front are names, heights, and weights. Here we find out that the new guy, GP, 5'11", 162#, is a former high-school wrestling champ with an impressive 17-0 win record. He admits he hasn't lifted a weight in three years, but feels he's up to the challenge of facing a larger opponent. Asked what his favorite wrestling move is, he says, "I like to pin" (my man!) Making his fifth appearance at the Arena, Frey, 5'9", 180#, looks a little tired in his opening interview, but being an underground pro (with prior experience at other promotions), by now he knows the patter. His high-school record is 14-2, his favorite move, the surfboard, and does he work out? Christ, just look at the guy!
The last eight minutes are the main reason to watch this match (the last seven photos above), because that's when the wrestlers have loosened up and gotten comfortable with each other, and the action gets fast and feisty--by turns friendly, fierce, and frisky, but always fun. The wrestlers light into each other for some great sport wrestling that climaxes in great pro-style moves like the fireman's carry (see the last photo). Lately I've been nostalgic for the days when all pro wrestling gave a nod to sport wrestling by devoting the first third or half of the match to mat grappling and classic catch tactics (like collar-and-elbow lockups, side headlocks, and armbars--still some of the most iconographic holds in wrestling). It was only after that action had reached a high fever that golden-era wrestlers moved on to Irish whips, chops to the chest, and use of the ropes. R&R39's finale sees Frey and GP summoning up everything they ever learned in high-school wrestling. It's vigorous and authentic--and it's fun watching these guys have fun with it. It gave me wood without even trying, and it will almost certainly be nostalgic for anybody who ever wrestled a buddy in a frat house or dormitory hallway--for chuckles, and whatever.
* This is a criticism from which only Big Sexy has consistently been exempted, because of his wit, exemplary sport wrestling skills, and, let's face it, sex appeal (all the more so, because Sexy is not only perfectly at ease with his body but also enough at ease with his heterosexuality as to seemingly "get" why many gay men might want to bounce all over him, without judgment or derision that I ever heard of).